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Best Novella Hugos 2014

This was one category this year where none of the stories quite grabbed me, and I feel a bit uncertain about my rankings. The fact that I read them all in one go lying outside in a hammock on a sunny day in my sister's garden in Burgundy may have diminished my concentration. So, more than usually, this is just an explanation of my own vote rather than advocacy for or against one story or another. I have also not yet decided where to place "No Award" in my ranking.

5) [May Books 14)] The Butcher of Khardov, by Dan Wells

This seemed to me a pretty standard augmented humanity superhero-type story, without any particular features that grabbed me one way or the other. The Russian setting was an original touch.

4) “The Chaplain's Legacy”, by Brad Torgersen

I'm not a lover of Torgersen's prose in general, but here at least there seemed to be a bit more smoothness in delivery, and quite an interesting setup - humans have been defeated in a war with atheist aliens, and it's now a decade or so later; counter-revolution and combat ensue. Having said that, the story then goes fairly predictably, and the aliens' prosthetic flying discs didn't really convince me (they never break down, except when they do; they just have enough power to get us to the next stage of the plot).

3) “Wakulla Springs”, by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages

This is the ranking I feel most ambivalent about. It's probably the best story on the ballot, a brilliant exploration of race, movies and (mostly) Florida, packed with references to sf and other classics; but it isn't sf itself, and I do like Hugo nominees to be visibly part of the genre. There is a short dream sequence, and a throwaway line at the very end, which could be argued to contribute (rather minimal) fantasy elements to the story, but otherwise the average Lovejoy novel has more sfnal content, and that is not very much. It will probably win despte my reservations.

2) “Equoid”, by Charles Stross

Another of Stross's Laundry stories, about a secret arm of British bureaucracy whose job it is to see off occult threats to the realm. There are lots of really fun references to pony stories and particularly to Cold Comfort Farm - this is a woodshed in which there really is something nasty - as well as to classic Lovecraft, and probably many others that I missed, with the usual frenetic pacing and some vividly gruesome description. It slightly loses its way, oddly enough, in a flashback sequence to Lovecraft's own life; it's as if the Cthulhu mythos and its creator don't actually mix all that well.

1) [May Books 15)] Six-Gun Snow White, by Catherynne M. Valente

An interesting retelling of the Snow White story, considerably altered and embellished, in a slightly fantasy Wild West setting, with the various tropes of fairy tale, Native American myth and frontier struggle colliding in a series of very short chapters. I rather bounced off the same author's Deathless, which did something similar for Russia, but liked this one sufficiently to put it top of my list, if slightly faute de mieux.

You can vote in this year's Hugos, and the 1939 Retro Hugos, by joining Loncon 3 at http://www.loncon3.org/memberships .

2014: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Related Work | Best Graphic Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist | Best Fan Artist
1939: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
aheuer
Jun. 1st, 2014 07:28 pm (UTC)
All right, my rank-ordering:

1. THE BUTCHER OF KHARDOV Dan Wells

I was not optimistic when I read it was based on a tabletop game, but this story is beautifully, seamlessly written. It is also infused with a certain primal power. An easy #1 choice in this group.

2. SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE Catherynne M. Valente

The first half or so of this story is fairly compelling, but it fizzles into some silliness. I suppose I would have preferred it to be more realistic and less fairy tale-ish.

3. "Equoid" Charles Stross

I thought the Lovecraft flashbacks were the best parts of this story. I have no idea what makes the protaganist of this story (named "Bob Howard") tick. I don't suppose I know what makes Charles Stross tick, either.

4. "The Chaplain's Legacy" Brad R. Torgersen

I've only read his three Hugo nominees, but so far I've found Torgersen's fiction to be rather bland. This story is definitely better (and less bland) than his novelette nominee of this year, but it's not quite as good as his novelette nominee of two years ago. But "bland" is the first word to come to mind when I think of any of these stories.

5. "Wakulla Springs" Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages

Meandering and unconvincing. The story never pays off before jumping forward in time. I know the authors aren't going for big plot payoffs, but there is nothing particularly impressive about this story. It just dawdles along in its pedestrian way.


There are no ratings on Goodreads for "The Chaplain's Legacy." THE BUTCHER OF KHARDOV, "Equoid," and SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE have ratings averages that are fairly even with one another. "Wakulla Springs" has a somewhat lower average rating. My best guess is that Charles Stross will take home the rocketship. The last time there was a UK Worldcon, Stross won the Best Novella Hugo for a Laundry story ("The Concrete Jungle"). History may repeat. The two things we can be confident in are that Torgersen won't win and Wells won't win!

Edited at 2014-06-02 12:26 am (UTC)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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